- Associated Press - Friday, May 2, 2014

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) - The director of the Billings Area Indian Health Service has resigned less than 18 months into the job, saying her efforts to improve health care for Indians were being crippled by a dysfunctional system.

“It was the level of service provided and the quality,” Anna Whiting-Sorrell told The Billings Gazette (https://bit.ly/1fWcjmI ).

The Billings-area Indian Health Service provides health care to more than 70,000 Native Americans and Alaska Native people in Montana and Wyoming.

“I just wanted to make sure there was good health care for Indians,” an emotional Whiting-Sorrell said. “I’ve always cared about health care and healing for American Indians. At some point, I had to assess where I could best use my skill to maximize health care for Indians - and IHS wasn’t the place.”

Indian Health Service officials did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

U.S. Sens. Jon Tester, chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, and John Walsh, both of Montana, asked the U.S. Government Accountability Office Friday to investigate the delivery of health care at Indian Health Service.

Their letter asked the GAO to look into the health service’s timeliness and standard of care provided; oversight over area offices; what it’s doing to fill vacancies; its third-party billing practices; and whether pain-management protocols are being followed.

Whiting-Sorrell came to the agency after four years as director of the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services.

She said she was aware of the challenges she faced, but said her efforts were crippled by a dysfunctional system.

There is a disconnect among Indian tribes, the Billings Area Indian Health Service and the agency’s national headquarters in Washington, D.C., Whiting-Sorrell said. “There needs to be a much broader conversation as to what the federal health care system looks like for Indians,” she said.

Former director Pete Conway will serve as acting regional director until a replacement is found.

Whiting-Sorrell starts Monday as director of operations and planning for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes on the Flathead Indian Reservation in northwest Montana.


Information from: The Billings Gazette, https://www.billingsgazette.com



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